More years, equals more miles for Paul Harvey
Local Richmonder Paul Harvey has had what he describes as several running lives. He ran track in high school, ran recreationally in the 80s and 90s, and started running again when he moved to Richmond. However, it’s his most recent venture that you may find the most intriguing.
Leading up to his 60th birthday he did one marathon a month for six months. As he reflected about his upcoming 70th birthday he started thinking about how he could top his previous running challenge. He figured he’d never been to every county in Virginia, so he opted to do a 10-year survey of the state and run at least 3 miles in each county and city. He finished his quest this January.
“I have a spreadsheet I kept track of everything on,” said Paul. “It just so happened that going into my last run I was 5.9 miles shy of 600. So, I made sure the last run was 5.9 miles. Each run had to be exclusively within only one jurisdiction. So even though it was tempting to check two off with one run, that was not allowed. And if I mistakenly crossed into another, I had to do the run over again. That did happen once in Lynchburg.”
He started the challenge on St. Patrick’s Day 2013 at the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach. Paul started out slowly running in five new locations in 2013, and eight in 2014. The first seven years of running he did less than 10 new locations per year.
In 2020 he ran in 33 new locations, 16 in 2021, and 27 in 2022. Once he got to the end of his 10-year deadline he was running in almost three new locations a month.
“The most difficult part of it was when I started feeling like I wasn’t going to get it done. This was back around 2020 and I was woefully behind schedule and of course the pandemic hit,” said Paul. “I thought, ‘Well this might work after all because I’m going to a lot of isolated places.’ Some days in trying to catch up I would do three counties in a row so those days were the most difficult days. I find it easier to run 9 miles at once rather than running 3 miles three times. After the first run, you drive, and you stiffen up. By the time you get to your third run your body is saying, ‘I don’t want to do this.’”
Paul told very few people he knew about his goal. He did run with his daughter at least twice.
“I was kind of hoping I would get some people on my last run,” said Paul. “It was in King William County down at West Point. When it looked like it was going to be just me, my wife said, ‘I want to help you celebrate.’”
West Point isn’t too far from William and Mary, the alma mater of both Paul and his wife. So it was fitting to celebrate the end of his adventure in Williamsburg by dining at their favorite deli.
While he’s no stranger to powering through, the challenge did reaffirm his determination to accomplish a goal. He also found that he’s someone who is pretty independent, who doesn’t fall back on having someone to run with.
“I’m not discouraged by not having someone to run with me,” said Paul. “I enjoy a run with a person, or without a person. The joy of running is what I remember.”
All that time alone could be a deterrent to some, especially for safety reasons. Paul discovered he was more courageous than he would’ve previously thought.
“There were parts of the state I went into that I had no familiarity with,” said Paul. “I was naïve and I’d be running down a road and realize there were dogs barking, and I didn’t know if they were tied up or loose. My rule of thumb if you hear a dog barking is to not turn your head to see them, just keep going.”
On one of his last runs in Pittsylvania County, Paul did encounter a loose dog that stood in his way. He was on a running trail and the dog had wandered from his house. A small stare down ensued, and Paul grabbed a stick causing the dog to take off. He considers himself very lucky that he didn’t have more instances like this. He also never came across a wild animal even in some of the more rural counties.
Paul’s favorite runs were the ones that had the most picturesque scenery. One special one took place in Bland County. He initially thought he would run in town, but there was a lot of traffic with kids getting to school that morning. Instead he drove a little out of town, and saw a road that ran to the right down a hill. There was a beautiful creek, some grassy areas, and a place where he could park.
“I ran on that road and it was so peaceful and quiet and the creek followed me along,” said Paul. “There were uphills, there were downhills. I came to one curve and looked up and saw this big expanse of tall trees, and it was one of those things where you just felt one with the world. Probably the most connected to nature that I felt.”
He even saw some deer crossing the road at the end of the route.
Of course, for every ideal run there’s one that ends up not going according to plan. In Floyd, VA after already completing two runs prior, Paul deviated from his original route due to elevation. He ended up finding the flattest part of town to finish his third run of the day.
“It ended up being a cemetery,” said Paul. “I ran my laps around a cemetery. They were cutting the lawn. It wasn’t dreary or scary, just monotonous.”
While Paul is glad for a little rest right now, he’s far from being finished. For his next adventure he plans to do some combination of Virginia counties, and West Virginia counties. He’s also toyed with the idea of adding the counties that surround Virginia and West Virginia. Who knows how many miles the future holds.